One of my favorite things about Reign has always been its female characters (well, that and Henry sexing someone out a window). Y’all know that Catherine de Medici is love, but I’ve also grown to like Mary’s handmaidens as well. Shit, I even like Claude. In fact, the only female character I just can’t seem to warm up to is Mary herself, but I’ll get to that. As Reign moves toward the conclusion of its second season, the emphasis seems to be shifting off of its leading ladies and onto its resident quintet of fuckboys. “Tempting Fate” might as well have been named “Fuckboypalooza” although that sounds less dramatic.
Which brings me back to my issues with Mary’s character, nearly all of which are intrinsically linked to the fuckboys she loves. Mary could be a great character if the show would ever let her live without being at the center of some grand love triangle, but other than that blissful period in late S1/early S2 when the Mary/Francis/Bash love triangle had fizzled out and the writers were forced to give her something to do other than some chiseled be-scruffed CW pretty boy, love triangles have come to primarily define her character. This is a problem, especially when the show’s main concept is built around her being, oh, the queen of Scotland and France. This is why I have the unpopular opinion of loving early S2–although the Mary/Louis relationship was marinating, the primary focus was on Mary’s (and Francis’s) struggles as young monarchs. Negotiating between their own youthful idealism and Queen C’s world-weary cynicism made for some compelling stuff, and Francis finally got somewhat interesting as he found himself turning into the kind of ruler he’d vowed never to be. But alas, all good things must come to an end, and the writers decided to reboot Mary/Bash/Francis 2.0 since it went so well the first time around, and to do it in the grossest way possible.
Trigger warning: rape
And by “grossest way possible,” I mean using Mary’s rape as a plot device to push yet another love triangle. While there had been tension between Mary and Louis before, the rape was the defining incident that propelled the relationship, and I still don’t understand why it was necessary, when Mary and Francis were already drifting apart due to his general fuckboyhood. The rape also seems to have brought Mary and Queen C closer, but again, that wasn’t really necessary either, since they already had begun developing a grudging respect and esteem for each other earlier in the season. That alone has really turned me against the Mary/Louis pairing, but the fact that she keeps being forced into infuriating decisions in order to push the love triangle just makes it even worse. And let’s be real here—by “infuriating decisions” I mean endangering herself and everyone around her, not hurting Francis, because I really have no investment in the Mary/Francis pairing beyond (and I use this term very loosely) historical accuracy. Francis has had a narrative target on his back since day one (Francis/death is canon, yo!) but the other characters haven’t, and I’d like to keep it that way.
So on to tonight’s fuckboy extravaganza. Let us rank the fuckboys:
- Rap sheet: being wishy-washy when Mary obviously dug him back when she first arrived in France, hitting and quitting Petra from Jane the Virgin and ruining her life, knocking up Mary’s BFF Lola, being Narcisse’s bitch and lying to Mary about it
- Saving grace: He’s probably going to die soon, so his fuckboyhood will come to an end
- Fuckboy score: 9/10
- Rap sheet: trying to overthrow his brother from the throne in S1, killing bitches, ignoring Kenna and then blaming her when the king of Navarre (also a fuckboy) runs his game on her, possibly getting Francis killed to save himself
- Saving grace: Not being Francis
- Fuckboy score: 9/10
- Rap sheet: Being the world’s worst double agent, having a propensity for married women, being the world’s worst double agent again
- Saving grace: Being attractive
- Fuckboy score: 9/10
- Rap sheet: Being a Nice Guy™ throughout most of his relationship with Greer. Not respecting her wishes or decisions. In this episode, he runs to the clergy to push for an annulment of Greer’s marriage to Castleroy when Greer already told him she doesn’t want one. What a prize.
- Saving grace: He was likeable when he was still in the kitchen and had yet to become a fuckboy
- Fuckboy score: 9/10
- Rap sheet: What hasn’t he done?
- Saving grace: Being Craig Parker
- Fuckboy score: 10/10
The only non-fuckboy on the cast right now is poor Castleroy, who deserves better than what this crap ass narrative gave to him.
So to be fair, it’s really not Mary’s fault that I just have a hard time rooting for her, because when she’s single, I rather enjoy her. But the consistently poor decisions the narrative requires her to make in order to move these love triangles is incredibly frustrating. I do understand and appreciate the role reversal being shown here–Mary wanting the affair while Francis is the patient and long-suffering spouse–while simultaneously pointing out the double standard that makes it impossible. Francis tried it before Lola advised him to let Mary have her affair under his protection, but Queen C, not blinded by her love of anything but power, saw right through the whole sordid affair (pun intended) and teams up with Narcisse to clean up after these idiots per usual. She’s particularly magnificent in this episode, shutting Narcisse down not once but twice–first, when he scams on her with all the finesse of… well, one of his fuckboys-in-waiting, and next when she makes it known in no uncertain terms that she is not after Mary’s downfall from this. Queen C just wants to protect her family, as she always does, and is a boss bitch in the process.
According to next week’s preview, Francis has finally come down with that ear infection, and I am legitimately wondering if the writers will have the balls to kill him off. An ear infection is what claimed his life historically, although the show is framing it as some kind of mystical Pushing Daisies-esque exchange when Bash (who got stabbed by some asshole he had an altercation with while playing medieval Veronica Mars) asks the magical nun to heal him (yes, I am aware of how utterly insane this sounds, but hey, it’s Reign, a show that had a character called The Darkness). I also wonder if, should they kill off Francis, the show will move Mary back to Scotland (Elizabeth has been cast, so we’ll be seeing her next season). If so, they’d need a new set, new characters, etc. Given that the writers rarely let a pesky thing like history interfere with the creative process, and the acquisition of such items may very well be out of the show’s budget, it’s anyone’s guess.